Topic: Groundwater

Overview

Groundwater

Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground, though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

Aquafornia news Investigate Midwest

How Seaboard Foods rebuilt the Oklahoma Panhandle’s economy, ushering in a new era of groundwater depletion

Mike Shannon’s city hall office is a “war room” for water. Maps of wells and charts of usage rates cover the beige room’s meeting table and desk. A large television screen mounted on the wall displays satellite images of a future groundwater well project. Coworkers visit throughout the day, often to talk about those plans to pump more water.  As city manager of Guymon — a town of about 13,000 in the state’s panhandle — Shannon oversees a network of 17 groundwater wells, all operating near capacity to draw water from the Ogallala Aquifer, the only water source in this arid region of tumbleweeds and sand dunes. … At the top of the list was Seaboard, a pork processing plant on the north side of town that slaughtered more than 20,000 hogs daily. The plant used 3,500 gallons of water a minute, three times the amount used by all the homes in Guymon combined. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Self-Help Enterprises to administer emergency water program in Tulare County

Self-Help Enterprises has launched a partnership with three groundwater sustainability agencies in the Kaweah Subbasin to expand assistance for rural residents who lose water due to lowering groundwater levels.  The East Kaweah, Greater Kaweah and Mid-Kaweah groundwater sustainability agencies will invest up to $5.8 million annually to ensure that water users in the area will receive emergency water supplies if their wells go dry. The big picture: Along with the emergency water supplies, Self-Help Enterprises will also provide a long-term drinking water solution through its water support program. Self-Help Enterprises has over a decade of experience operating its water support program to provide emergency water supply, interim supply – which includes tanks and hauled water – and long-term solutions, such as working with well drillers to replace failed wells.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

PFAS in Tucson: EPA orders cleanup by US Air Force, Air National Guard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demanding the U.S. Air Force and Arizona National Guard take action as concentrations of toxic “forever chemicals” are increasing in the groundwater in a historically contaminated area on Tucson’s south side. The EPA found the pollution came from the nearby military properties and ordered them to clean up the contamination. High concentrations of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, were detected in Tucson’s groundwater near the Tucson International Airport at the National Guard base and at a property owned by the U.S. Air Force. The contaminants threaten the groundwater extracted at a water treatment run by Tucson Water in the Tucson Airport Remediation Project area, known as TARP. That water was intended for drinking, the EPA said in its May 29 order.

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Aquafornia news Bay City News

Report shows some progress on groundwater storage

The good news is that the San Joaquin Valley has managed to store a little more groundwater since the drought of 2016. The bad news is that it is hard to keep account of what’s working and what’s not. On Tuesday, the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit policy research organization, released an update report on the replenishment of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the areas of the state that is heavily dependent on groundwater. The report also identified those basins best suited to accept water recharge operations, with the highest number being in the eastern and southern regions of the valley. 

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Sparks fly as Tulare County agency is accused of being “unable and unwilling” to curb over pumping

Fireworks were already popping between board members of a key Tulare County groundwater agency recently over an 11th hour attempt to rein in pumping in the severely overdrafted area. The main issue at the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) meeting June 6 was whether to require farmers in subsidence prone areas to install meters and report their extractions to the agency, which is being blamed for almost single handedly putting the entire subbasin in jeopardy of a state takeover. … In the end, the Eastern Tule board voted 6-0 to require all landowners in the subsidence management area along the canal to meter their wells and report extractions by January 1.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Madera farmers and groundwater agency in limbo waiting for court decision on fees

The end of a two-year legal fight over who should pay, and how much, to replenish the groundwater beneath Madera County could be in sight. A motion to dismiss the lawsuit by a group of farmers against the county is set to be heard June 18.  The outcome could determine whether Madera County, which acts as the groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) for hundreds of thousands of acres across three water subbasins, can finally move forward on a host of projects to improve the water table per the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). From the farmers’ point of view, the outcome of this case could make or break their farms, some that have been in their families for generations.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Bakersfield, Cal Water lift 5-day-old water advisory

The city of Bakersfield and California Water Service Co. on Sunday lifted the do-not-drink, do-not-use advisory issued Tuesday to 42 commercial customers south of Lake Truxtun after an oil company reportedly allowed pressurized natural gas and crude oil into the municipal water system.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Commentary: Do California wine grapes use more water than almonds and other crops?

Making wine requires water. But how much? Water is a precious resource in drought-prone California, and its use in agriculture is rightfully a contentious topic. … While a wine glut is compelling some grape growers to remove their vineyards, some readers are suggesting that this might be a good thing from a water use perspective. So I wanted to understand: Just how big of a water suck are California grapevines, really? The TLDR here is that California wine grapes don’t gulp nearly as much water as crops like almonds, pistachios and alfalfa. But the real story here is much more complex … 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Replenishing groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley: 2024 update

Strategies to replenish groundwater basins—long used in some areas of the San Joaquin Valley—have increasingly come into focus as the region seeks to bring its overdrafted groundwater basins into balance under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). In late 2023, following a very wet winter and spring, we conducted a repeat survey of local water agencies about their recharge activities and perspectives, building on a similar survey at the end of 2017, a year with similar levels of precipitation. We found signs of progress on recharge since 2017, as well as areas where more work is needed to take full advantage of this important water management tool.

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Aquafornia news LAist

Saving stormwater

Stormwater in L.A. and Orange Counties is captured via spreading grounds, or large open areas of gravel and sand that allow pools of water to form and percolate deep into underground reservoirs. Since we’ve largely run out of room for spreading grounds, other solutions are being explored. Slow it down: Before we paved over our cities, water used to percolate through soil across the region. Water agencies use dams to capture and slowly release water over time to utilize spreading grounds even during hot months. Use our yards: The majority of L.A. is private property, meaning there’s a big opportunity for owners to implement water features like swales, which can capture water and allow it to sink into the soil, rather than run out into the street.

Aquafornia news Morning Ag Clips

Report: Cover crops benefits may outweigh water-use in California

Cover crops are planted to protect and improve the soil between annual crops such as tomatoes or between rows of tree and vine crops, but growers may be concerned about the water use of these plants that don’t generate income. “Cover crops are one of the most popular practices we see farmers employ through our Healthy Soils Program,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. … These potential benefits are especially salient in the San Joaquin Valley, where groundwater challenges are more acute. A new report evaluates the water implications of cover cropping practices to lay the groundwork for their adoption in the context of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, which is intended to protect groundwater resources over the long-term. “Yes, cover crops require a nominal amount of water to establish – and sometimes rainwater is sufficient – but the myriad co-benefits are worth it,” Ross said.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Why Mexico City’s water crisis is causing it to sink

On a recent morning, visitors wandered around Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Latin America’s oldest — and one of its largest. Walking from chamber to chamber, tourists snapped images of dramatic ceiling-high altars, soaring columns and sculptures. But there’s another unintended detail that stands out: the cathedral is leaning. … This sinking, which is known as land subsidence, crops up across the world. While it can be subtle in many places — it pushes land down around an inch or two a year in much of the U.S. — the rates in Mexico City are some of the highest in the world. Some areas in Mexico City are slipping as fast as 20 inches a year in recent decades, according to researchers. Overall, the clay layers under the soil have compressed by 17 percent in the last century.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Counting groundwater: The devil is in the details

A lengthy complaint alleging secretive, self-dealing on the part of a prominent farmer and board member on a key Tulare County groundwater agency slogged through a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation over the past four years resulting in, essentially, a slap on the wrist late last month. Eric L. Borba, former chair of the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency, was found in violation of the state’s disclosure rules at the Commission’s April 25 meeting for not listing his ownership in several ditch companies including the value of those water assets. He was ordered to revamp his Form 700s, which public board members and executives must file each year, and pay a $5,400 fine. The Form 700s now list Borba’s ownership, through a variety of entities, in five area ditch companies. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Berkeley, Albany to test parks for evidence of radioactive waste

Officials in Berkeley and Albany are moving forward with plans to test two popular bayside parks — César Chávez and the Albany Bulb — for evidence of radioactive material possibly dumped decades ago by the former Stauffer Chemical Co. plant in Richmond.  Richmond has been dealing with radioactive material and other hazardous waste left by Stauffer for decades, but Berkeley and Albany officials were warned only this year that the company may have also discarded tons of industrial waste into landfills that have since been covered over and converted to the bayshore parks. The planned testing in both cities will include uranium, thorium and the banned pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), on the advice of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, according to reports from both cities. 

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Modesto supplier gets few takers for excess river water

Above-average storms have allowed the Modesto Irrigation District to offer Tuolumne River water to nearby farmers who normally tap wells. It is getting few takers. The program is designed to boost the stressed aquifer generally east of Waterford, just outside MID boundaries. The district board on Tuesday debated whether to drop the price to spur interest, but a majority voted to leave it unchanged. The discussion came amid a state mandate to make groundwater use sustainable by about 2040. MID does not have a major problem within its territory, which stretches west to the San Joaquin River. But it is part of a regional effort to comply with the 2014 law. This includes out-of-district sales of Tuolumne water in years when MID’s own farmers have plenty. That was the case in 2023, one of the wettest years on record, and this year thanks to storage in Don Pedro Reservoir.

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Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: Groundwater accounting platform offers data-driven solution for the American West

As the American West faces intensifying water challenges, water managers, landowners, and water users are increasingly turning to the Groundwater Accounting Platform as a data-driven tool that enables them to track water availability and usage with user-friendly dashboards and workflows. This critical tool is now available throughout California to support sustainable groundwater management practices. Unsustainable groundwater pumping across much of the West has endangered long-term water supplies and lead to millions of dollars of infrastructure damage from sinking land. The Groundwater Accounting Platform empowers users to manage long-term, and helps communities avoid undesirable outcomes and maintain clean water supplies at lower costs. Additionally, this critical functionality supports Groundwater Sustainability Agencies as they manage resources in priority basins under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Last year’s groundwater recharge numbers were impressive but what about this year?

This current, remarkably average water year – not last year’s barn burner –  will be the true test to see how well groundwater agencies are rejuvenating the San Joaquin Valley’s withered aquifers, longtime water managers say. Yes, 2023’s historic wet year did a lot to help groundwater levels rebound in many parts of the valley. And the numbers were impressive: 453,000 acre feet of floodwater was captured for storage, according to the state’s most recent semi-annual groundwater report released this month. The valley captured 91% of the state’s annual managed recharge, about 3.8 million acre feet.  Groundwater levels rose in 52% of monitoring wells and stayed level in 44%. An area of about 800 square miles saw ground uplift, 40 times more than uplifted in 2018-2022. But the state report notes even a record breaking wet year isn’t enough to refill the aquifers and groundwater deficit persists.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

A scientist aims to save habitats that rely on groundwater

California is recognized as one of the world’s hotspots of biodiversity, with more species of plants and animals than any other state. And a significant number of the state’s species, from frogs to birds, live in habitats that depend on groundwater. … Spotting threats to vulnerable natural areas has become a mission for Melissa Rohde, a hydrologist who has spent years analyzing satellite data and water levels in wells to come up with strategies for preventing ecosystems from being left high and dry. … California is the only state with a groundwater law that includes provisions intended to protect groundwater-dependent ecosystems. But the law, adopted in 2014, gives considerable leeway to local agencies in developing water management plans that prevent “significant and unreasonable adverse impacts.”

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Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

California airports stand to benefit from lawmakers and scientists’ attempts to disrupt ‘forever chemicals’

UC Riverside professor Jinyong Liu embarked on a scientific challenge as an undergraduate chemistry student when he heard people dub per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as “forever chemicals.” … Undetectable by sight, smell, or taste, PFAS is part of everyday American life. It’s found in personal care products like shampoo and dental floss, in grease-resistant food packaging, and nonstick cookware. … In 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board ordered 30 airports, including the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, to investigate their groundwater and soil for the chemical. State regulators pinpointed pollution to a PFAS-rich foam called aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), which has been discharged into the environment since the mid-1970s through firefighter trainings.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Cover crops could enhance groundwater recharge – a lot – but agencies aren’t embracing the concept

Cover crops could be an important tool in groundwater management but are being unintentionally disincentivized by groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs,) according to a new study. GSAs haven’t done enough analysis or incentivization of cover crops, according to authors of the study. In fact, the study suggests some GSAs are putting a negative spin on the use of cover crops by accounting for their water usage but excluding their water benefits. … [The study] was a collaborative effort between many organizations and agencies including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and nonprofit Sustainable Conservation. 

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Aquafornia news KPBS - San Diego

As lithium emerges in Imperial County, what will it take for residents to benefit?

Around the world, demand for lithium is surging, and the Imperial Valley is in a strong position to help meet that need. State and local leaders have been working hard to ensure that the communities of the valley will see more far-reaching benefits this time if the industry continues to grow. As California races to curb carbon emissions, advocates and researchers say the growth of the lithium industry could be a test of a so-called ”just transition.” That’s a movement to cleaner energy sources that strengthens local communities, rather than hollowing them out. … Lithium is a soft, silvery-white metal that’s found in many places around the world, including in hard rock, layers of sediment and belowground pockets of salty water. It’s used to lubricate aircraft engines, added as a fuel to military-grade torpedoes and is prescribed by doctors as a treatment for bipolar disorder.

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe, AZ

Water is for fighting: Partisanship increases in Arizona politics as groundwater drops

In Arizona, water used to be a bipartisan area of politics, albeit a contentious one. But partisanship and tension have increased as water has drained away. Kathleen Ferris is a water policy expert of more than 40 years who helped craft Arizona’s monumental 1980 Groundwater Management Act. “Everybody keeps saying that water is bipartisan, and in fact it’s not. It’s not anymore, let’s put it that way. It used to be. You could say that back in 1980, when we passed the Groundwater Management Act, but you can’t say that anymore,” she said. Ferris believes Arizona’s prospects have darkened over the years, largely due to rural communities resisting conservation efforts. “Willcox, for example, did not want any part of the Groundwater Management Act. And yet here they are today, desperate for help,” Ferris said. 

Aquafornia news Western Fram Press

Commentary: A grower’s grower – Organic farms are all natural

Innovations and improvements are ongoing in the field of agriculture as immortalized by a poet centuries ago who wrote, “Nothing stays the same, save eternal change.” Fortunately for farmers, something creative is always on the horizon that will make things faster, easier, and sometimes even cheaper.  One such evolution involves organic growing and how it differs from conventional farming. Developed in the early 1900s, the concepts of organic agriculture included use of animal manures, cover crops, rotation of crops, and biologically based pest controls.  Encyclopaedia Britannica calls it, “A sustainable agriculture system that evolved as a response to the environmental harm caused by chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Compared with conventional agriculture, organic farming uses less pesticide, reduces soil erosion, decreases nitrate leaching into groundwater and surface water, and recycles animal wastes.”
-Written by contributing writer Lee Allen. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kings County Farm Bureau blames one local water board for state intervention; demands heads roll

The fallout and recriminations in Kings County continue over the state Water Resources Control Board’s historic decision to place the Tulare Lake subbasin on probation for failing to come up with a cohesive plan to protect the region’s groundwater. The Kings County Farm Bureau, which has already sued the Water Board over the probationary designation, is now demanding the resignations of the manager and entire board of directors of one local water board, saying they are at fault for putting the region in jeopardy with the Water Board. The Farm Bureau is seeking to oust Kings County Water District General Manager Dennis Mills and all of the district’s board members. Mills and three of those board members also sit on the Mid-Kings River Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Journalist & Author Mark Arax to provide Keynote Address at 3ʳᵈ International Groundwater Conference in June

Mark Arax, an award-winning journalist and author of books chronicling agriculture and water issues in California’s Central Valley, will provide the keynote talk at an international groundwater conference next month. The event, Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture: The 3ʳᵈ International Conference Linking Science & Policy, returns to San Francisco June 18-20 for the first time since 2016 and will highlight advances on sustaining groundwater in agricultural regions across California and around the world. Arax, author of The Dreamt Land, West of the West and The King of California, is from a family of Central Valley farmers. He is praised for writing books that are deeply profound, heartfelt and nuanced. He will do a reading from his latest book The Dreamt Land and comment on the future of groundwater in the Valley during his keynote lunch talk on June 18.

Aquafornia news Washington Post

Sites with radioactive material more vulnerable as climate change increases wildfire, flood risks

As Texas wildfires burned toward the nation’s primary nuclear weapons facility, workers hurried to ensure nothing flammable was around buildings and storage areas. When the fires showed no sign of slowing, Pantex Plant officials urgently called on local contractors, who arrived within minutes with bulldozers to dig trenches and enlarge fire breaks for the sprawling complex where nuclear weapons are assembled and disassembled and dangerous plutonium pits — hollow spheres that trigger nuclear warheads and bombs — are stored. … There’s the 40-square-mile Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where a 2000 wildfire burned to within a half mile (0.8 kilometers) of a radioactive waste site. The heavily polluted Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Southern California, where a 2018 wildfire burned 80% of the site, narrowly missing an area contaminated by a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown. 

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Building moratorium in Los Osos could be lifted after decades

Los Osos could end its building moratorium by the end of the year and see new construction for the first time in decades under a plan led by the California Coastal Commission and San Luis Obispo County. The proposal could eventually bring 1% residential growth to a community that has been under a building ban since 1988. The history of Los Osos’ moratorium began with the septic tank discharge prohibition issued by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in 1983. That agency found that the town’s 5,000 septic tanks were sending millions of gallons of effluent down the drain and into both the groundwater and the bay. The county then carried out a multi-decade struggle to site and fund a new water treatment plant, finally launched in 2012 and put into service in 2016. 

Aquafornia news E&E News by POLITICO

Biden admin advances groundwater permitting policy

The Biden administration is moving forward with new permitting guidance to curb pollution that moves through groundwater in response to a landmark Supreme Court ruling. In a decision praised by environmental advocates, the high court ruled in 2020 that wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities must obtain federal permits for groundwater pollution that affects major bodies of water. Since then, however, questions have emerged over how to interpret and apply the ruling, which said that permits are necessary if groundwater pollution has the “functional equivalent” of directly contaminating a lake, river or other surface water. The Trump administration issued its own interpretation of the ruling in January 2021, which EPA under President Joe Biden scrapped months later.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kings County Farm Bureau sues state for placing the region on probation because of groundwater woes

The Kings County Farm Bureau and two of its farmer members have filed suit against the state Water Resources Control Board, claiming the board exceeded its jurisdiction when it placed the Tulare Lake groundwater subbasin on probation April 16. A writ of mandate was filed May 15 in Kings County Superior Court. A writ is an order asking a governmental body, in this case the Water Board, to cease an action. The farm bureau is asking the board to vacate the resolution, which was passed unanimously. “The board’s decision to place the (Tulare Lake Subbasin) on probation violated the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and expanded the board’s authority beyond its jurisdiction,” a Kings County Farm Bureau press release states.  The filing asks for declaratory and injunctive relief, and cites eight causes of action under the writ that the “probationary designation is arbitrary, capricious, and lacking in evidentiary support.” 

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Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Corcoran has sunk nearly 5 feet

Land subsidence remains the biggest issue in the new state regulation of groundwater. The state Water Board reports that subsidence measured as much as 7 feet just east of Corcoran between June 2015 and January 2024. Groundwater pumping west of Highway 99 has caused the land to sink at least 4 to 5 feet according to a DWR database. The worry here is the collapse of water delivering infrastructure. Tulare Lake farmers have been asked to install metering on their pumps 90 days after the decision to put the GSA on probation which was made April 16. That means by mid-July pumpers must install metering as well as begin reporting how much water they are extracting.

Aquafornia news Pleasanton Weekly

Pleasanton council authorizes issuance of $19M in water revenue bonds

The Pleasanton City Council unanimously approved finance documents to allow the city to issue water revenue bonds with a principal maximum amount of $19 million, which will help pay for water system improvement projects and the first phase and design work for drilling new wells as part of the city’s Water Supply Alternative Project. Following the council decision to authorize the bond issuance during the May 7 council meeting, staff said pricing and interest rates for the bonds will be established on May 20 or May 21 with the goal of having the city receive the bond proceeds on June 4. “This is similar to buying a house. You don’t just get it from your salary, sometimes you have to go into debt and pay it back over time,” Mayor Karla Brown said during the meeting. “But this will be a big shift in this city.” 

Aquafornia news Sustainable Conservation

Report: Multi-disciplinary committee jointly publishes report on the intersection of SGMA and cover crop water use in California’s Central Valley

A multi-disciplinary authorship group of over 30 individuals has published a report comprised of literature review, policy analysis, and recommendations pertaining to the water impacts of cover crop practices in California’s Central Valley under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The report, entitled “Cover Cropping in the SGMA Era,” is the product of a convening process jointly developed by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Natural Resources Conservation Service of California (NRCS-CA), and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and assembled by Sustainable Conservation.

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Aquafornia news Law360

California city sues Dow, Shell over TCP-tainted water

Dow Chemical and Shell USA are facing a negligence suit in California federal court by the city of Pomona, alleging the companies are responsible for manufacturing commercial products containing the toxic 1,2,3-trichloropropane that has migrated into the city’s water supply and seeking to recoup costs over response efforts. …

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Revelations of possible radioactive dumping around Bay Area trigger testing

Beyond a chain-link fence topped with spiraled barbed wire, swaying coastal grasses conceal a cache of buried radioactive waste and toxic pesticides from a bygone chemical plant. Warning signs along the Richmond, Calif., site’s perimeter attempt to discourage trespassers from breaching the locked gates, where soil testing has detected cancer-causing gamma radiation more than 60 times higher than background levels in some places. For most of the 20th century, the former Stauffer Chemical Co. disposed of thousands of tons of industrial waste near its factory grounds along Richmond’s southeast shoreline. … In a January letter to Albany and Berkeley city officials, [the State Water Board] wrote that the landfills “may have accepted industrial waste materials that could present a risk to water quality, human health, and the environment.”

Aquafornia news The Hill

California almond crop forecasts up 21 percent after wet and mild winter

Thanks to favorable weather conditions, California’s almond crop for 2024 is expected to be 21 percent greater than last year’s final output, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports. The almond crop should amount to about 3 billion pounds, as opposed to the 2.47 billion pounds generated in 2023, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Pacific Regional Office, based in Sacramento. … Mature almond trees in the southern Sacramento Valley can consume 41 to 44 inches of water in an average year when water use is unrestricted, while those in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley can use as much as 50 to 54 inches, according to data from the University of California, Davis.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Captured stormwater boosts Los Angeles County’s reserves

Heavy rains this winter and spring sent torrential flows down local creeks and rivers, and L.A. County managed to capture and store a significant amount of that stormwater, officials say. To be exact, they snared an estimated 295,000 acre-feet of water since last October, or 96.3 billion gallons. That’s enough water to supply about 2.4 million people a year — nearly one-fourth of the county’s population. … The county, working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and other agencies, was able to capture and store this amount of water thanks in part to investments totaling more than $1 billion since 2001, Pestrella said. Some of the money has gone toward raising dams and increasing the capacity of spreading grounds, where water is sent into basins and then percolates underground into aquifers.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kern agencies prepare to submit third groundwater plan in hopes it’s the charm that wards off state pumping takeover

In an effort to avoid the fate of their neighbors to the north, Kern County water managers are putting the finishing touches on a new groundwater plan they hope will stave off probation in order to keep state bureaucrats from taking over local pumping. The county’s 20 groundwater agency boards began approving final changes to the plan, which is actually six identical plans, last week in expectation of submitting them to the state Water Resources Control Board by May 28. The goal is to stay out of probation, which is where the Tulare Lake subbasin ended up after a hearing before the Water Board on April 16. Tulare Lake covers almost all of Kings County. Now, under probation, most Kings County growers will have to register their wells at $300 each and report extractions starting July 15.

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Aquafornia news Victorville Daily Press

Geoscience Support Services pens contract with Mojave Water Agency

A new project for the Mojave Water Agency aims to support strategic planning for sustainable groundwater basin management and conjunctive use projects, the agency announced. The announcement came on Tuesday by Geoscience Support Services, Inc., a geohydrology firm that provides specialized hydrogeology and groundwater consulting and services. Geoscience entered into a new contract with the Apple Valley-based Mojave Water Agency to evaluate groundwater resources and develop advanced recovery and management strategies. The project supports the Mojave Water Agency’s mission to manage groundwater basins and address risks to sustainable water supplies.

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Aquafornia news NBC 7 - San Diego

East San Diego County planning group wants to tap brakes on Muslim cemetery in remote Pine Valley

It’s a tale as old as the American West: folks fighting over water. This time, however, the battle brewing in a remote California community is one you’ve likely never heard before. The clash is centered in the normally sleepy community of Pine Valley, which, according to most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, has a population of 1,645. Although you don’t have to live in town to sign, that figure is close to how many people signed a petition boasting 1,800 signatures that was circulated to Stop SD Crescentwood Cemetery. … Critics argue, though, that it sits above the Campo-Cottonwood Sole Source Aquifer, which serves the groundwater needs of thousands of East County residents. Depending upon whom you talk with, the facility could host as few as four burials a year or as many as 350. The problem … is that “effluvium” from decomposing human bodies could leach into the ground, eventually making its way down and contaminating the aquifer.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Third San Joaquin Valley groundwater basin recommended for state probation

Subsidence has reared its head again as a key factor cited by state Water Resources Control Board staff for recommending that the Kaweah groundwater subbasin be placed on probation – the first step toward possible state takeover of groundwater pumping. The recommendation was contained in a draft report released May 6, which set Nov. 5 for Kaweah’s hearing before the Water Board. Subsidence was listed as a major factor in similar staff reports for the Tulare Lake and Tule subbasins. Tulare Lake was, indeed, placed on probation by the Water Board April 16 and the Tule subbasin comes before the board Sept. 17. The Kaweah  report  identified additional challenges for water managers in the subbasin, which covers the northern half of Tulare County’s valley portion into the eastern fringes of Kings County.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Friant lawsuit over sinking canal altered but moving forward

One of multiple charges in a lawsuit that pins blame for the perpetually sinking Friant-Kern Canal on a single Tulare County groundwater agency was recently removed. The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (ETGSA) hailed the move as vindication. But plaintiffs, the Friant Water Authority and Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, said the change was simply meant to narrow the complaint in order to get faster action against Eastern Tule. The stakes could not be higher as the entire Tule subbasin, which covers the southern half of Tulare’s valley portion, is looking down the barrel of a possible pumping takeover by the state Water Resources Control Board.  The Water Board, the enforcement arm of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, has scheduled a “probationary hearing” for the subbasin Sept. 17.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California aquifers boosted by a wet year, recharge efforts

After years of pervasive declines, groundwater levels rose significantly in much of California last year, boosted by historic wet weather and the state’s expanding efforts to replenish depleted aquifers. The state’s aquifers gained an estimated 8.7 million acre-feet of groundwater — nearly double the total storage capacity of Shasta Lake — during the 2023 water year that ended Sept. 30, according to newly compiled data from the California Department of Water Resources. A large portion of the gains, an estimated 4.1 million acre-feet, came through efforts that involved capturing water from rivers swollen by rains and snowmelt, and sending it to areas where the water percolated into the ground to recharge aquifers. The state said the amount of managed groundwater recharge that occurred was unprecedented, and nearly double the amount of water replenished during 2019, the prior wet year.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California sees big dividends in groundwater supply thanks to wet winter duo

An extraordinary water year brought much-needed relief to a drought-stricken Golden State, but experts say California needs several more exceptionally wet years to repair lingering damage to precious underground water supplies. The newest Semi-Annual Groundwater Conditions report — using the first annual data collected from groundwater sustainability agencies across 99 basins holding more than 90% of the state’s groundwater — indicates the state has gained 4.1 million acre-feet of water through underground recharge, nearly the total storage capacity of Shasta Lake. Meanwhile, underground storage improved by 8.7 million acre-feet.  Thanks to the surprise string of record-breaking storms, 2023 marked the first year since 2019 that agencies saw a jump in groundwater storage.

Related groundwater articles: 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

California groundwater levels got a huge bump from 2023’s wet weather

Diminished by decades of over-pumping, California’s groundwater reserves saw a huge influx of water last year, in some places the most in modern times, according to state data that offers the first detailed look at how aquifers fared during the state’s historically wet 2023. The bump was driven, in part, by deliberate efforts to recharge aquifers — the porous underground rock that holds water and accounts for about 40% of the state’s total water supply. The intentional water banking, or managed recharge, resulted in at least 4.1 million acre-feet of water pushed underground, nearly equivalent to what California’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, can hold. About 90% of that recharge occurred in the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland, where aquifers have been heavily taxed by pumping. 

Related groundwater articles: 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Agencies race to fix plans to sustain groundwater levels

Seeking to prevent the California State Water Resources Control Board from stepping in to regulate groundwater in critically overdrafted subbasins, local agencies are working to correct deficiencies in their plans to protect groundwater. With groundwater sustainability agencies formed and groundwater sustainability plans evaluated, the state water board has moved to implement the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. … Under probation, groundwater extractors in the Tulare Lake subbasin face annual fees of $300 per well and $20 per acre-foot pumped, plus a late reporting fee of 25%. SGMA also requires well owners to file annual groundwater extraction reports.

Aquafornia news Office of Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria

News release: Assemblywoman Soria introduces bill to boost groundwater recharge

Last week, Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria introduced AB 2060 to help divert local floodwater into regional groundwater basins. AB 2060 seeks to streamline the permitting process to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in support of Flood-MAR activities when a stream or river has reached flood-monitor or flood stage as determined by the California Nevada River Forecast Center or the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). This expedited approval process would be temporary during storm events with qualifying flows under the SWRCB permit.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Farmers in Tulare County to test groundwater market they hope could help keep them in business and replenish the aquifer

How will selling groundwater help keep more groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley’s already critically overtapped aquifers? Water managers in the Kaweah subbasin in northwestern Tulare County hope to find out by having farmers tinker with a pilot groundwater market program. Kaweah farmers will be joining growers from subbasins up and down the San Joaquin Valley who’ve been looking at how water markets might help them maintain their businesses by using pumping allotments and groundwater credits as assets to trade or sell when water is tight.

Related article: 

Tour Nick Gray

Northern California Tour 2024
Field Trip - October 16-18

Click here to register!

Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833

Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture
3ʳᵈ International Conference Linking Science & Policy

REGISTRATION CLOSED

Join us June 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport for the 3ʳᵈ International Conference, Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture: Linking Science & Policy. Organized by the Water Education Foundation and the UC Davis Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair, the conference will provide scientists, policymakers, agricultural and environmental interest group representatives, government officials and consultants with the latest scientific, management, legal and policy advances for sustaining our groundwater resources in agricultural regions around the world.

The conference keynote address will be provided by Mark Arax, an award-winning journalist and author of books chronicling agriculture and water issues in California’s Central Valley. Arax comes from a family of Central Valley farmers and is praised for writing books that are deeply profound, heartfelt and nuanced including The Dreamt Land, West of the West and The King of California. He will do a reading from his latest book The Dreamt Land and comment on the future of groundwater in the Valley during his keynote lunch talk on June 18.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport
1333 Bayshore Hwy
Burlingame, CA 94010
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater By Nick Cahill

New California Law Bolsters Groundwater Recharge as Strategic Defense Against Climate Change
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Designates Aquifers 'Natural Infrastructure' to Boost Funding for Water Supply, Flood Control, Wildlife Habitat

Groundwater recharge in Madera CountyA new but little-known change in California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s supply of groundwater.

The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.

High-Tech Mapping of Central Valley’s Underground Blazes Path to Drought Resilience
Aerial Surveillance Reveals Best Spots to Store Floodwater for Dry Times but Delivering the Surplus Remains Thorny

Helicopter towing an AEM loopA new underground mapping technology that reveals the best spots for storing surplus water in California’s Central Valley is providing a big boost to the state’s most groundwater-dependent communities.

The maps provided by the California Department of Water Resources for the first time pinpoint paleo valleys and similar prime underground storage zones traditionally found with some guesswork by drilling exploratory wells and other more time-consuming manual methods. The new maps are drawn from data on the composition of underlying rock and soil gathered by low-flying helicopters towing giant magnets.

The unique peeks below ground are saving water agencies’ resources and allowing them to accurately devise ways to capture water from extreme storms and soak or inject the surplus underground for use during the next drought.

“Understanding where you’re putting and taking water from really helps, versus trying to make multimillion-dollar decisions based on a thumb and which way the wind is blowing,” said Aaron Fukuda, general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District, an early adopter of the airborne electromagnetic or AEM technology in California.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2024
Field Trip - March 13-15

Tour participants gathered for a group photo in front of Hoover DamThis tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to some 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South
7830 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89123

California Water Agencies Hoped A Deluge Would Recharge Their Aquifers. But When It Came, Some Couldn’t Use It
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: January storms jump-started recharge projects in badly overdrafted San Joaquin Valley, but hurdles with state permits and infrastructure hindered some efforts

An intentionally flooded almond orchard in Tulare CountyIt was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.

The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.    

Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.

Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.

Grand Sierra Resort
2500 E 2nd St
Reno, NV 89595

Northern California Tour 2023
Field Trip - October 18-20

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

This tour traveled along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720
Announcement

Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 12
Check out our monthly events calendar for details on this course and other water events in California

Photo of groundwater gushing into a percolation basin An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by University of California, Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 12, 19, 26 and June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.Martha Guzman recalls those awful days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible time.”

She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely greatest opportunity.”

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2023
Field Trip - March 8-10

This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to some 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

This tour guided participants on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Groundwater Management Requirements Spark Innovative Approaches to Reach Sustainability
A 'Craigslist' for water, flooding farms to feed the aquifer, and turning farmland into habitat to aid wildlife and groundwater

An example of a water-trading platform in Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County.

The San Joaquin Valley has a big hill to climb in reaching groundwater sustainability. Driven by the need to keep using water to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket while complying with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, people throughout the valley are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to manage and use groundwater more wisely. Here are three examples.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.

Announcement

Water Leaders Alumni: Stay In Touch With Each Other and The Foundation
Join LinkedIn alumni group for networking, program news and more!

Since 1997, more than 430 engineers, farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and others have graduated from our William R. Gianelli Water Leaders program. We’ve developed a new alumni network webpage to help program participants connect and keep in touch.

Announcement

Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 21st
See our events calendar for details & register today!

An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by UC Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 21 and 28, June 4, 18, and 25 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Announcement

Agenda Posted for Oct. 30 Water Summit; Join the Waitlist!
Keynote speakers include California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Scripps Atmospheric River Researcher Marty Ralph

A diverse roster of top policymakers and water experts are on the agenda for the Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit. The conference, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, will feature compelling conversations reflecting on upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

Tickets for the Water Summit are sold out, but by joining the waitlist we can let you know when spaces open via cancellations.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC Berkeley symposium explores approaches and challenges to managed aquifer recharge around the West

A water recharge basin in Southern California's Coachella Valley. To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.

Announcement

Water Summit Panel to Focus on Nexus of Fire and Water in the Wildland-Urban Interface
Oct. 30 Event Will Feature the Latest on Policy, Planning and Management from Key Stakeholders, Experts

California experienced one of the most deadly and destructive wildfire years on record in 2018, with several major fires occurring in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). These areas, where communities are in close proximity to undeveloped land at high risk of wildfire, have felt devastating effects of these disasters, including direct impacts to water infrastructure and supplies.

One panel at our 2019 Water Summit Oct. 30 in Sacramento will feature speakers from water agencies who came face-to-face with two major fires: The Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise in Northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in the Southern California coastal mountains. They’ll talk about their experiences and what lessons they learned. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.

Announcement

Scripps Scientist Marty Ralph to Discuss Atmospheric Rivers in Opening Keynote at Water Summit
Early bird pricing ends today for the 2019 Water Summit “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning"

Oroville Dam spillway emergencyAtmospheric rivers, the narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast, are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full.

However, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage, much like what happened in 2017 with Oroville Dam’s spillway.

Learn the latest about atmospheric river research and forecasting at our 2019 Water Summit on Oct. 30 in Sacramento, where prominent research meteorologist Marty Ralph will give the opening keynote.

Announcement

Oct. 30 Water Summit to Feature Panel About Key Groundwater Issues as SGMA Deadline Approaches
Attend and learn how water managers are working toward sustainable groundwater management in California

With a key deadline for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in January, one of the featured panels at our Oct. 30th  Water Summit will focus on how regions around California are crafting groundwater sustainability plans and working on innovative ways to fill aquifers.

The theme for this year’s Water Summit, “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflects critical upcoming events in California water, including the imminent Jan. 31, 2020 deadline for groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high- and medium-priority basins.

Announcement

Stay Up To Date With Upcoming Groundwater Events Via Our Calendar
We track relevant tours, symposia, conferences and more for your convenience

Our event calendar is an excellent resource for keeping up with water events in California and the West.

Groundwater is top of mind for many water managers as they prepare to meet next January’s deadline for submitting sustainability plans required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We have several upcoming featured events listed on our calendar that focus on a variety of relevant groundwater topics:

Announcement

Registration Now Open for the 36th Annual Water Summit; Take Advantage of Early Bird Discount by Registering Today
Join us Oct. 30 for key conversations on water in California and the West

Registration opens today for the Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to water management as California and the West weather intensified flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss event, visit our Water Summit event page.

Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee, materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches with key people in the water world.

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 

Announcement

2019 Water Summit Theme Announced – Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning
Join us October 30 in Sacramento for our premier annual event

Sacramento RiverOur 36th annual Water Summit, happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on issues affecting water across California and the West.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Key California Ag Region Ponders What’s Next After Voters Spurn Bond to Fix Sinking Friant-Kern Canal
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Subsidence chokes off up to 60% of canal’s capacity to move water to aid San Joaquin Valley farms and depleted groundwater basins

Water is up to the bottom of a bridge crossing the Friant-Kern Canal due to subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater. The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.

Western Water Klamath River Watershed Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

California Leans Heavily on its Groundwater, But Will a Court Decision Tip the Scales Against More Pumping?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pumping near the Scott River in Siskiyou County sparks appellate court ruling extending public trust doctrine to groundwater connected to rivers

Scott River, in Siskiyou County. In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.

Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Vexed by Salt And Nitrates In Central Valley Groundwater, Regulators Turn To Unusual Coalition For Solutions
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Left unaddressed, salts and nitrates could render farmland unsuitable for crops and family well water undrinkable

An evaporation pond in Kings County, in the central San Joaquin Valley, with salt encrusted on the soil. More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.

An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Could the Arizona Desert Offer California and the West a Guide to Solving Groundwater Problems?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Defense Fund report highlights strategies from Phoenix and elsewhere for managing demands on groundwater

Skyline of Phoenix, ArizonaAs California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.

Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Novel Effort to Aid Groundwater on California’s Central Coast Could Help Other Depleted Basins
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Michael Kiparsky, director of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Water Institute, explains Pajaro Valley groundwater recharge pilot project

Michael KiparskySpurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.

Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.

Tour

Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Northern California Tour 2018

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway. 

Tour

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2018

Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Groundwater Replenishment

Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Enhancing California’s Water Supply: The Drive for New Storage
Spring 2017

One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.

In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.

Aquapedia background

Runoff

Snowmelt and runoff near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento.Runoff is the water that is pulled by gravity across land’s surface, replenishing groundwater and surface water as it percolates into an aquifer or moves into a river, stream or watershed.

Aquapedia background

Sinkholes

Sinkholes are caused by erosion of rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water underground. 

Aquapedia background

Irrigation

Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it falls is insufficient. Different irrigation systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in California and the West relies on irrigation. 

Aquapedia background

Freshwater

The United States Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids. However, 500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for municipal and commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is saline, 97.5 percent with only 2.5 percent fresh.

Aquapedia background

Springs

Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly into other water bodies. They can also be considered the consequence of an overflowing aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.

Aquapedia background

Potable Water

Photo of drinking water filling a glass over the kitchen sink. Potable water, also known as drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for consumption.

Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms, bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or fever.

Announcement

Discover Hidden World of Subsidence on Upcoming Groundwater Tour
Early bird discount expires Tuesday

Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are often in remote locations on private property.

During our California Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of extensometers used by the California Department of Water Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater overdraft.

Aquapedia background

Mojave River

Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding from extreme weather events like El Niño

Aquapedia background

Alluvium

Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.  Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff (as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A man watches as a groundwater pump pours water onto a field in Northern California.A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”

Western Water Magazine

The View From Above: The Promise of Remote Sensing
March/April 2015

This issue looks at remote sensing applications and how satellite information enables analysts to get a better understanding of snowpack, how much water a plant actually uses, groundwater levels, levee stability and more.

Publication

The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
A Handbook to Understanding and Implementing the Law

This handbook provides crucial background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook also includes a section on options for new governance.

Tour

Southern California Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

Diamond Valley Lake. Photo by MWD

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled through Inland Southern California to learn about the region’s efforts in groundwater management, recycled water and other drought-proofing measures.

Tour

Groundwater Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled from the Sacramento region to Napa Valley to view sites that explore groundwater issues. Topics  included groundwater quality, overdraft and subsidence, agricultural use, wells, and regional management efforts.

Publication California Groundwater Map

Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.

Western Water Magazine

Overdrawn at the Bank: Managing California’s Groundwater
January/February 2014

This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Founda­tion’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater management and the extent to which stakeholders believe more efforts are needed to preserve and restore the resource.

Publication

Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Publication

Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Western Water Magazine

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater banking, a water management strategy with appreciable benefits but not without challenges and controversy.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

A Tale of Two Rivers: The Russian and the Santa Ana
May/June 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring the vestiges of the native past.

Western Water Magazine

Dealing with the ‘D’ Word: The Response to Drought
November/December 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought – its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should it arrive.

Western Water Magazine

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Statewide, groundwater provides about 30 percent of California’s water supply, with some regions more dependent on it than others. In drier years, groundwater provides a higher percentage of the water supply. Groundwater is less known than surface water but no less important. Its potential for helping to meet the state’s growing water demand has spurred greater attention toward gaining a better understanding of its overall value. This issue of Western Water examines groundwater storage and its increasing importance in California’s future water policy.

Western Water Magazine

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
July/August 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the issue of California groundwater management, in light of recent attention focused on the subject through legislative actions and the release of the draft Bulletin 118. In addition to providing an overview of groundwater and management options, it offers a glimpse of what the future may hold and some background information on groundwater hydrology and law.

Video

A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.

Video

Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.

Video

Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 

Video

Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.

Video

Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.

Product

Go With the Flow: A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Message

This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12 about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.

Maps & Posters Groundwater Education Bundle

California Groundwater Map
Redesigned in 2017

California Groundwater poster map

Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36-inch poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface water.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing
Updated 2005

The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides background information on water rights, types of transfers and critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in 1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River transfers and the role of private companies in California’s developing water market. 

Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.

The State Water Project is best known for the 444-mile-long aqueduct that provides water from the Delta to San Joaquin Valley agriculture and southern California cities. The guide contains information about the project’s history and facilities.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.

Publication California Water Map

Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water
Published 2006

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.

Aquapedia background

Seawater Intrusion

Seawater intrusion can harm groundwater quality in a variety of places, both coastal and inland, throughout California.

Along the coast, seawater intrusion into aquifers is connected to overdrafting of groundwater. Additionally, in the interior, groundwater pumping can draw up salty water from ancient seawater isolated in subsurface sediments.

Aquapedia background California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater

Groundwater Pollutants

barrel half-buried in the ground, posing a threat to groundwater.

The natural quality of groundwater in California depends on the surrounding geology and on the source of water that recharges the aquifer.

Aquapedia background

Overdraft

Overdraft occurs when, over a period of years, more water is pumped from a groundwater basin than is replaced from all sources – such as rainfall, irrigation water, streams fed by mountain runoff and intentional recharge. [See also Hydrologic Cycle.]

While many of its individual aquifers are not overdrafted, California as a whole uses more groundwater than is replaced.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Treatment

The treatment of groundwater— the primary source of drinking water and irrigation water in many parts of the United States — varies from community to community, and even from well to well within a city depending on what contaminants the water contains.

In California, one-half of the state’s population drinks water drawn from underground sources [the remainder is provided by surface water].

Groundwater Management

Groundwater pump in California's Central ValleyGroundwater management is recognized as critical to supporting the long-term viability of California’s aquifers and protecting the nearby surface waters that are connected to groundwater.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Legislation

California has considered, but not implemented, a comprehensive groundwater strategy many times over the last century.

One hundred years ago, the California Conservation Commission considered adding  groundwater regulation into the Water Commission Act of 1913.  After hearings were held, it was decided to leave groundwater rights out of the Water Code.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Law

California, like most arid Western states, has a complex system of surface water rights that accounts for nearly all of the water in rivers and streams.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Banking

An aerial view of a groundwater bank

Groundwater banking is a process of diverting floodwaters or other surface water into an aquifer where it can be stored until it is needed later. In a twist of fate, the space made available by emptying some aquifers opened the door for the banking activities used so extensively today.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Adjudication

When multiple parties withdraw water from the same aquifer, groundwater pumpers can ask the court to adjudicate, or hear arguments for and against, to better define the rights that various entities have to use groundwater resources. This is known as  groundwater adjudication. [See also California water rights and Groundwater Law.]

Aquapedia background California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater

Groundwater

Groundwater pump in a Northern California farm field.

If California were flat, its groundwater would be enough to flood the entire state 8 feet deep. The enormous cache of underground water helped the state become the nation’s top agricultural producer. Groundwater also provides a critical hedge against drought to sustain California’s overall water supply.

In years of average precipitation, about 40 percent of the state’s water supply comes from underground. During a drought, the amount can approach 60 percent.

Aquapedia background

Conjunctive Use

Conjunctive use is a catch-phrase for coordinated use of surface water and groundwater— literally going with the flow to maximize sufficient yield.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

For something so largely hidden from view, groundwater is an important and controversial part of California’s water supply picture. How it should be managed and whether it becomes part of overarching state regulation is a topic of strong debate.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

In early June, environmentalists and Delta water agencies sued the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA) over the validity of the transfer of the Kern Water Bank, a huge underground reservoir that supplies water to farms and cities locally and outside the area. The suit, which culminates a decade-long controversy involving multiple issues of state and local jurisdictional authority, has put the spotlight on groundwater banking – an important but controversial water management practice in many areas of California.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Groundwater, out of sight and out of mind to most people, is taking on an increased role in California’s water future.

Often overlooked and misunderstood, groundwater’s profile is being elevated as various scenarios combine to cloud the water supply outlook. A dry 2006-2007 water year (downtown Los Angeles received a record low amount of rain), crisis conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the mounting evidence of climate change have invigorated efforts to further utilize aquifers as a reliable source of water supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
Jul/Aug 2003

When you drink the water, remember the spring. – Chinese proverb

Water is everywhere. Viewed from outer space, the Earth radiates a blue glow from the oceans that dominate its surface. Atop the sea and land, huge clouds of water vapor swirl around the globe, propelling the weather system that sustains life. Along the way, water, which an ancient sage called “the noblest of elements,” transforms from vapor to liquid and to solid form as it falls from the atmosphere to the surface, trickles below ground and ultimately returns skyward.

Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

Conjunctive Use: Banking for a Dry Day
July/Aug 2001

Traditionally treated as two separate resources, surface water and groundwater are increasingly linked in California as water leaders search for a way to close the gap between water demand and water supply. Although some water districts have coordinated use of surface water and groundwater for years, conjunctive use has become the catchphrase when it comes to developing additional water supply for the 21st century.